I think I’ve made some pretty strong comments about the whole FLDS mess, so I’m glad I was able to read this book. It is amazing and fascinating, and I couldn’t stop reading it. Written by the fourth wife of Merril_Jessop , a powerful leader in the FLDS and head of the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, it’s an eye-opener. She gives a firsthand look at what living in a polygamous family is like, as well as describing how the group changed under the leadership of Warren Jeffs, becoming more and more repressive until they simply did not allow themselves to think or feel.
The family dynamics of a household with half a dozen wives competing for the attention of one husband (because they have been taught that their only salvation is through pleasing their husband and bearing many children) is positively horrific. In theirs, competition was vicious, and children were taught to spy and report on their siblings and mothers. The sister wives, though they must work together, must be very careful in their behavior toward each other or they will be reported to Father. The pressure would be massive. And the police in Carolyn’s town were all FLDS, so if a wife decided to leave against her husband’s wishes, there was nowhere to go, no one to help.
And if your thoughts ever strayed from what the prophet said was acceptable, you certainly couldn’t admit it. There was always someone anxious to curry favor by reporting you. After I finished this book, I watched a couple of the interviews with wives from the Texas ranch, and now I can see why they talk as they do. That robotic, sweet attitude is the only way that they can survive.
The sad thing, though, is that when they truly believe that this is the only way to heaven and that outsiders are all wicked people who are trying to pull them away from God, it’s pretty hard to rescue them. And most of these people have been raised with this belief all their lives, so why would they question it? Something like the raid in Texas only reinforces their belief.
I found it interesting the way the group changed under Warren Jeffs. It was gradual, but in incremental stages, he began to outlaw individuality. Clothes became more of an issue–one day he outlawed the color red, then large prints, then plaids, and eventually only soft pastels were allowed. And no one questioned the prophet–God was calling them in these last times to live by a higher standard. He had the revelation that they should purge themselves of all worldly literature, so the people destroyed their libraries, including children’s books. Once, a small boy was killed by a pit bull, so the prophet declared that all dogs must be done away with. And they were.
They were told that the news was nothing but lies, and TV, radio, internet and newspapers were declared to be off limits. The public schools in the town were closed, because they were teaching things that were not according to FLDS beliefs. Children were discouraged from seeking higher education, boys were sent away to work on construction crews at 12 years old, girls were married at increasingly younger ages.
And of course, with men having so many wives, there weren’t enough to go around. So many of the younger men were found “unworthy of the kingdom” and were simply expelled from the community to find their own way in a world they had been taught was inhabited by infidels who only wanted to harm them.
After reading this, I am far more understanding of the way the whole YFZ Ranch raid was handled. People who are brainwashed for generations simply may not have the capacity to think and reason for themselves. I still think that the children should stay with their biological mothers, but only if they agree to intensive counseling. Those women are the closest thing to Stepford Wives mentality that I would ever want to see. Even though I knew in theory that these things happened, seeing it through the eyes of a woman who has been there made me realize that it goes far deeper than I could have ever imagined. Even after Carolyn brought her eight children out and they lived in the “normal” world for several years, her daughter chose to go back to the FLDS when she turned 18. Such is the power of faith, faith in a man rather than God.
In doing a little research on FLDS after reading this book, I was very surprised to find a video which interviews at length people who joined polygamous groups from the outside. I believe all of them had been Mormon (LDS) before, and were obviously devout. In their study of the book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s writings, they had realized that in order to completely follow Joseph Smith, their prophet, one simply had to follow the doctrine of having plural wives. I found it really interesting to hear about their journeys. I just had never really thought of people joining these groups from the outside. It’s an excellent video, but quite long. I thought I would skip through it quickly, but ended up being captivated by the stories and watched most of it. I’d highly recommend it.